On February 2, it is customary in Canada and the United States to celebrate an annual tradition wherein we allow a chubby burrowing rodent to forecast the weather. This is an important ritual, but not for the reason that many people think.
Many believe this “holiday” can be traced back to an ancient pagan ritual called Imbolc, which was duly adopted by early Christians and turned into Candlemas. (This means Mass of the Candles, in which the clergy would perform ear candling on the most hairy-eared and disgusting member of each parish, in a metaphorical recreation of the time when Jesus performed the Ear Candling of Jergomethia, cleaning the aural canals of a score of waxy hermits, and curing them of their deafness.) Finally, this holiday or “holy day” was further perverted by the German-speaking populations of Pennsylvania, who fused the day with European folklore and a desire to celebrate fersommling, a kind of Pennsylvania Dutch orgy. (Obviously, these depravities are only celebrated by the Fancy Dutch, and eschewed by the more plain sects, such as the Amish, Dunkards and Mennonites.)
However, there live amongst some of the Elders in these plain sects of the Pennsylvania Dutch — or P-Dutch, as they are known on the streets of Philadelphia — the horrible, truthful truth.
Once, North America was largely ruled by these underground rodents of the family Sciuridae, and though they lived largely in peace with the native human populations, the arrival of the white man marked the end of their peaceful co-existence. For when the early settlers began tearing up the forests, and plowing the meadows where the groundhog, or woodchuck, lives, war between all men and the Tcuckbar (as the groundhogs call their own race) began.
Amongst the Elders of the Dunkards, this is known as the Grundschwein Zehekriege, or literally, “groundhog toe wars”; this name is taken from the favourite martial tactic of the Tcuckbar, which is to sever the large toe of a human being, and thus cause him to lose his balance, fall down, and then have his carotid artery savaged. Normally, groundhogs are peaceful herbivores, but when roused, they can eat up to twice their own weight in human flesh.
It is when they are thus engorged, looking almost like a bristly boar that they are most dangerous. Indeed, one of their other names is taken from this state: while in boar mode, the average groundhog will make a high-pitched sound, from whence their nickname, “whistle pig” derives.
During this dark period of the war, many humans took to fighting one another, or slaughtering local wolf populations, for no-one could believe such excessive butchery could be done by the lowly woodchuck — and the groundhog attackers were always disappearing into holes or climbing trees before humans could spot them. (You didn’t know they could climb trees, did you? Then you probably don’t know about their limited psychokinetic ability to move small objects such as golf balls, musket balls, and human eyes.)
Eventually, through an uncharacteristic adoption of empiric method the P-Dutch Fußführer (or “Foot Leader”), Johann Suppetrinker, figured out it was the groundhogs, and the war turned to the favour of the human forces. Unfortunately, most humans outside the P-Dutch Confederacy did not believe Suppetrinker’s explanation, and it took many years for the humans to gain control of the situation.
To this day crack forces of Amish and Mennonite Grundschweinmörders (Groundhog Killers) spend part of every winter season hunting down resistant forces of the dangerous Tcuckbar groundhog clans. Luckily, evolution has done the rest of the work for us, and the remaining non-sentient species is largely harmless, except to the occasional horse or golfer.
But this is why we celebrate Groundhog Day, and the annual humiliation ritual surrounding it. Otherwise, what other explanation could there be for the pomp and elaborate circumstance of this winter rite? Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie are not terrified by their own shadow, so much as the deep racial memory of seeing the figure of an Amish Grundschweinmörder, poised to spit him on a finely crafted spitzerstock. (Pointed stick.)
And they’ve only been slightly more accurate at predicting the end of winter than the Farmer’s Almanac, the P-Dutch edition included.
Alltop doesn’t believe that Wiarton Willie even exists. Picture of ritually humiliated groundhog courtesy of Scottobear. Brilliant artwork of Whistle Pig preparing to strike by ~Artsammich. Defeat of groundhog poster by Northfield.org.